DeliciousTemptationEntangledBrazenbySabrinaSol

Review: Delicious Temptation by Sabrina Sol

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review: Delicious Temptation by Sabrina SolDelicious Temptation (Entangled Brazen) by Sabrina Sol
Series: Delicious Desires #1
Published by Macmillan on May 19th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, General, Romance
Pages: 200
Format: eARC
Goodreads
three-stars
A sexy category romance from Entangled's Brazen imprint...The only thing naughtier than a bad boy is a good girl...Amara Maria Robles is a good girl. So good that she gave up her dreams of becoming a renowned pastry chef to help her parents with their struggling Mexican bakery. Yet her parents reject any changes she suggests, and refuse to sell her mouth-watering confections. Clearly being a good girl isn't paying off. So when her brother's sexy ex-best friend walks into the bakery, Amara's tempted to be very bad indeed...After a scandal twelve years ago, resident bad boy Eric Valencia has returned to make things right with his family and friends. One glance at Amara and her wicked curves, however, and Eric finds himself thinking about how she'd feel beneath him-something he promised Amara's brother he would never think about, let alone do. But this bad boy is in deep trouble...because Amara's determined to have her cake, and Eric, too.

DELICIOUS TEMPTATION is the story of how a good girl and a bad boy each move past the judgmental expectations of family and community to embrace love and a new life together. This story should have been right in my wheelhouse, but the combination of a doormat heroine, a vacillating hero, and outrageously overbearing parents made this a less than optimal read for me

Amara Robles abandoned her successful pastry chef job in Chicago to take over her family’s tiny East LA bakery after her father’s illness. Now with all of the responsibility but none of the authority, Amara feels stifled by being back under her parents’ thumb and by their refusal to approve any changes to save the bakery. When her brother’s notorious high school friend Eric Valencia reappears after years away, Amara decides to risk her parents’ disapproval to go after him, if only temporarily. But will Eric be worth the gamble for both her heart and her family’s livelihood?

The trope of a heroine yearning to break free from oppressive parents is a classic in romance, and it’s gratifying when the heroine successfully rescues herself from their clutches. But when the parents are completely intractable in the face of all good reason, and the heroine can’t escape without the help of other external forces, then I start feeling trapped myself.

DELICIOUS TEMPTATION still could have worked for me if Amara had ever stood up to her parents even once. But in Amara’s world, life isn’t what you make of it, it’s what your parents decide is best for you. This might be understandable for a heroine just starting out on her own, but when the heroine is in her late 20s and has already had a life outside her parents’ sphere of influence, it makes for a frustrating read. And yet this is how Amara behaves for nearly the entire story. Even when the last best opportunity to save her parents’ bakery is rejected by them (just like always), it only still ends up happening because someone else takes over after Amara gives up (just like always).

Amara only makes a few real independent decisions in the entire story, one of which is to make the fancy cupcakes her parents previously rejected, and the other to go after Eric. And yet she even gives up on Eric when it looks like he’s not going to stick around after all. Amara’s almost complete acquiescence to whatever anyone else decided for her was infuriating, and having other characters call her out on it didn’t make it any better. By the time I got to the end of the book, it was clear that if Eric hadn’t finally seen the light, Amara would have stayed under her parents’ thumb indefinitely. That’s not a heroine I can cheer for.

Amara and Eric were a cute couple, and I was glad they got their HEA in spite of all the obstacles in their path. But ultimately for me, Amara’s inability to stand up for herself until everything else was already fixed for her made DELICIOUS TEMPTATION more aggravating than enjoyable for me.

three-stars

Review: The Perfect Letter by Chris Harrison

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Perfect Letter by Chris HarrisonThe Perfect Letter by Chris Harrison
Published by HarperCollins on May 19th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Fiction, General, Romance, Western
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Goodreads
three-stars
As the longtime host of ABC's The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, Chris Harrison has learned a thing or two about romance. Now, in his debut novel, Chris draws on his unique insights and wisdom to explore the exhilarating experience of risking it all in the name of love."The truth was something Jake said they should keep, always, between the two of them . . . "Leigh Merrill had spent ten years running away from her past. A talented young book editor on the fast track at a major publishing house, Leigh had been determined to build a life for herself in New York City—a life far from the hay-filled barns, swimming holes, and rolling hills of her grandfather's horse farm in Texas. And for the most part, she'd succeeded. This new life, one filled with books and parties and romance, was everything she'd dreamt of as a girl. Complete. Happy even, if Leigh considered the future she was building with Joseph, a brilliant, generous man who adored the very ground she walked on. Still, when the invitation arrived asking her to be the keynote speaker at the Austin Writer's Conference, Leigh couldn't ignore the nagging feeling that Texas, with all of its tangled secrets, was calling her home.Out of reasons to say no to a free trip, Leigh sees the conference as a perfectly timed escape—just a few days away to catch up with old friends, meet a few potential authors, and clear her mind. But Leigh's plans for a quiet retreat quickly dissolve when a stack of deeply personal letters from the past are left in her hotel room. After all these years of running, Leigh has nowhere to hide. In her hands she holds the letters that bare her soul and her secrets, the letters she wrote to one man, the love of her life—Jake. With her past and present crashing in around her, Leigh must decide just how much she's willing to risk for love.A remarkable debut by a modern-day love expert, The Perfect Letter is a must-read for Bachelor fans, and hopeless romantics, everywhere.

When I heard Chris Harrison, the veteran host of the long-running Bachelor/Bachelorette reality competition series, had written a romance novel and credited Nicholas Sparks as his role model, you can imagine how cynical my reaction was. Just because a guy hosts a tv show where people think they’re finding true love doesn’t mean he can write a real romance. And readers familiar with Nicholas Sparks know all too well how most of his books are the opposite of romances (spoiler alert: he likes to kill off one or both of his romantic leads off by the end). But as a romance reviewer and admitted Bachelor/Bachelorette fan, I couldn’t resist such a hugely publicized book. So I requested an advance copy, set my expectations to zero, and plunged in headfirst.

Fundamentally, THE PERFECT LETTER is not an all-out debacle, as some (including me) might have expected, and it is an actual romance, unlike most of what Nicholas Sparks produces. But it is also not a particularly well written romance, relying on too many obvious tropes without any attempts at originality on its way to a conclusion that manages to be both unbelievable and predictable.

Leigh is a successful young woman on the verge of a huge promotion in her dream job and marriage to a man to whom she owes so much. But first she must return to the place she’s stayed away from since her beloved grandfather died while attempting to avoid the one man who’s kept her away all these years. When Jake comes back into Leigh’s life, it’s like they’d never been separated, never lost each other in a sudden act of violence. But as Leigh is torn between her big city future and her small hometown past, someone else is poised to destroy it all before she gets the chance to decide for herself

For someone who has never read a romance book before, everything in THE PERFECT LETTER might seem new and exciting, but for an experienced reader, what’s here is a slightly longer version of a stereotypical category romance. After years of denial, adorable wunderkind heroine must confront a past tragic event that tore from her great love and forced her from the only home she’s ever known. Noble bad boy hero sacrificed all for his one true love but can’t help wanting her back even as the evil source of their pain has coincidentally returned to deal one final deadly blow. Add a red flag fiance, a wacky but loyal gal pal, and an ending that went well beyond mere eyerolls, and you’ve got THE PERFECT LETTER.

Just because a true romance must end with the hero and heroine together and happy doesn’t mean that a book shouldn’t keep the HEA from appearing predetermined. But THE PERFECT LETTER doesn’t even really try. The supposed conflict regarding Leigh’s existing commitment to her NYC boyfriend / wannabe fiance is laughable, as we’re already informed right at the start that the boyfriend mocks her Texas origins, isn’t particularly giving in the bedroom, and won’t listen to her concerns as he tries to railroad her into being his bride. Indeed, we’re supposed to be happy that Leigh instantly falls into bed with Jake after years of estrangement because he is her one true love, and Leigh’s hometown BFF is there to give voice to that opinion in case we might have any moments of doubt.

And when the real threat to Leigh and Jake’s long awaited happiness finally presents itself, it’s clear that the lack of plausibility isn’t limited to just the romantic elements of the story. You see, at the heart of THE PERFECT LETTER are the letters Leigh sent to Jake for several years after their wrenching separation. But it’s the one letter she wrote that has placed them both in danger, and the implausibility of its existence is matched only by what the heroine ultimately does in an attempt to save herself and the hero from the person using it to threaten them both. It’s difficult to fully express how unbelievable the resolution of the suspense plot is without resorting to spoilers, but when I’m searching online for details on how much a bank will allow you to withdraw from a personal account with only a few days’ notice, it’s safe to say I’m more than a bit skeptical about what’s going down.

As someone who is often fortunate enough to receive free advance copies for review, I’ve tended not to discuss book prices in my actual reviews, although if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll see I have well defined opinions about what I will and will not personally pay for any book. But after a great deal of thought, I’ve concluded that cost is a key factor for enough readers that I need to stop ignoring it in my reviews. After all, saying a book is worth reading isn’t necessarily the same as saying how much it’s worth paying for, or even worth paying for at all.

So let’s talk about how much this book is being sold for and how that relates to its content. The new ebook price for THE PERFECT LETTER is $11.99 at the time of this review, and that’s in line with the majority of most big publisher hardback book releases by a well known personality. But even if it was half that price, I still wouldn’t buy it, if only because a highly marketed book like THE PERFECT LETTER will be fairly easy to find at the public library. There’s not much in this book that I care to read a second time, and certainly not for that much money, but like the rest of this review, that’s just my opinion and yours may vary.

In conclusion, it’s fair to say I was entertained by THE PERFECT LETTER and I’m happy I got to read it, though it’s a shame that it wasn’t the book it claims to be in its blurb. At least it’s a genuine romance, and not the Nicholas Sparks kind, and for that and for the reasonably enjoyable intimate scenes between its hero and heroine, THE PERFECT LETTER is still worth reading, even if not at full retail price.

three-stars

MakeYouMinebyJackieAshenden

Review: Make You Mine by Jackie Ashenden

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review:  Make You Mine by Jackie AshendenMake You Mine by Jackie Ashenden
Series: Nine Circles #2
Published by Macmillan on May 5th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Gothic, Romance, Suspense
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Goodreads
five-stars
In the Nine Circles Club, one lucky man gets more than his share of money, power, and women--until he meets a beautiful opponent who plays in the name of love...in Make You Mine by Jackie Ashenden.He's raising the stakes.International playboy Alex St. James always plays to win. Whether it's betting on a high-stakes card game--or bedding a high-class socialite--the gorgeous world-class gambler knows how to beat the odds using his brains, his body, and a whole lot of charm. But there's one woman who's immune to Alex's bag of tricks--which makes her the perfect challenge...and the ultimate prize.She's going all in.Once a special operative in her native Russia, Katya Ivanov knows what kind of man Alex is. As his personal bodyguard, she's seen him seduce the richest women, place the riskiest bets, and break the hardest players. But to even a score from her past, she's willing to take a gamble on her reckless boss. Even if she has to pretend to be his lover. Even if he drives her mad with desire. And then she never wants this dangerous game to end...

This review may contain spoilers for MINE TO TAKE, the first book in the Nine Circles series. You could try to read MAKE YOU MINE as a standalone, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

MAKE YOU MINE is the second book in Jackie Ashenden’s romantic suspense series Nine Circles, telling the story of how another member of the “bleeped-up billionaires club” finds his own true love when he least expects it. And while the first book MINE TO TAKE was a great introduction to the Nine Circles world, MAKE YOU MINE took off like a rocket from where that story left off and didn’t stop until I was breathless and crying for fictional characters like they were actually real.

Alex St. James has tried to protect himself and everyone else in his life by pretending not to care about anything except making money and pleasures of the flesh. Caring nearly killed him once, and he refuses to be vulnerable a second time. But when he needs his lovely bodyguard to be his pawn in a plot for revenge against the man who changed his life forever, Alex discovers that not only does he care, but that being cared for in return can be the greatest strength of all.

Betrayed by family and country, Katya found work as a bodyguard to an American billionaire playboy while waiting for news about the missing man she’s promised to marry. She is paid to protect his body, but it’s his soul that she worries about. As Alex’s plan unfolds, only Katya’s unswerving loyalty and Alex’s last shreds of humanity stand between them and the loss of everything they both hold dear.

One of the things I love about Jackie Ashenden’s stories is how her characters always pull at my heartstrings so brutally that I sometimes have to put the book down, but never so much that I won’t immediately pick it back up again. And then just when I think it’s reached the lowest point of what could possibly happen, she hits me with one more punch that leaves me both reeling and begging for more. in MAKE YOU MINE, Alex and Katya burn up the page every time they are together, even while a terrible menace hangs over them for most of the book. And as they each reveal their closest secrets to each other, that menace seems less threatening if only because they know that nothing can really hurt them as long as they have each other. The suspense plot brings them together, but it’s their romance that propels the book and that’s what makes it a romantic suspense I can wholeheartedly recommend. And with the overall Nine Circles storyline still unresolved, I’m even more eager to read YOU ARE MINE than I was to read this book.

five-stars

Review: Seduced By Sunday by Catherine Bybee

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review:  Seduced By Sunday by Catherine BybeeSeduced by Sunday by Catherine Bybee
Published by Amazon Publishing on April 14th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Family Life, Fiction, Romance, Suspense
Pages: 310
Format: eARC
Goodreads
three-stars
She swore off love forever...but he just might change her mind. The sixth sweet, thrilling book in the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling Weekday Brides series from Catherine Bybee. Meg Rosenthal: Matchmaker by day, realist by night, Meg is not about to get swept away by a charming, darkly handsome businessman in a designer suit. She's come to a beautiful secluded resort to evaluate the private island's potential for her agency, not to ogle its owner. But there's something about the magnetic man that's hard to resist, even for a woman who refuses to fall in love. Valentino Masini: A successful and drop-dead sexy businessman, Valentino is used to having the finer things in life. Yet he's never wanted someone the way he wants Meg, who's stirring up a hurricane of trouble in his heart. But just as he decides to convince her to stay, someone else decides it might be time to get Meg off the island...permanently.

One of the very first romances I read as an ebook several years ago was WIFE BY WEDNESDAY by Catherine Bybee, and it’s still one of my favorite contemporary romances. Since then, that book has been followed by several others in what’s now known as the Weekday Brides series, where each day of the week features another heroine and hero finding their way to each other and a well deserved HEA. What I’ve noticed as the series progresses is that each book in turn has been more romantic suspense than straight up romance. And now with this latest book, SEDUCED BY SUNDAY, what I’d feared would happen has occurred – the actual romance has been downgraded to just another facet of a complicated suspense plot that ends up taking over all but the beginning and ending of the entire book.

SEDUCED BY SUNDAY starts out well enough as we get to know Meg Rosenthal, one of the highly skilled matchmakers working for Alliance, the company started by the heroine of WIFE BY WEDNESDAY. Alliance has successfully matched up several couples who need to be married for reasons other than love, but as we’ve seen in the previous books, sometimes those alliances turn into love, and sometimes they lead its participants to love matches within the circle of those who initially brought them together. In this story, Meg is taking Michael, the closeted gay actor we met two books earlier, to a resort island run by Valentine Masini in the hopes that this resort will work well as a private honeymoon destination for future Alliance clients. But as Meg and Valentine try not to succumb to their shared sexual attraction, their promised privacy is violated by someone with much bigger plans than mere blackmail. By the end of this story, there will be terrible betrayals and more than a few dead bodies, but the promised HEA for Meg and Val will not be denied.

What made SEDUCED BY SUNDAY a less enjoyable read for me wasn’t just how the suspense plot became the focus of the story instead of Meg and Val’s budding romance. It was how that plot went from mysterious photographs hinting at blackmail to a sudden and lengthy trip to Italy while another secondary character was kidnapped and abused, culminating with the heroine saving herself in a way that I could not believe one bit. Then when the romance was finally taken up again near the end, I was supposed to believe that the heroine really didn’t know the hero loved her because she didn’t know the Italian translation of “I love you.” I might have been able to swallow one unbelievable ending, but both were just too much for me. And even though I will always love WIFE BY WEDNESDAY, it’s clear that the series has transformed into a subgenre where I don’t care to follow, so SEDUCED BY SUNDAY will be my last Weekday Brides book.

three-stars

Review: The Billionaire’s Ink Mistress by Joely Sue Burkhart

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review:  The Billionaire’s Ink Mistress by Joely Sue BurkhartThe Billionaire's Ink Mistress by Joely Sue Burkhart
Series: Billionaires in Bondage #2
Published by Samhain on April 7 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Erotica, Fiction, Romance
Pages: 216
Format: eARC
four-half-stars
His desire for her pierces deeper than skin.

Billionaires in Bondage, Book 2

The Lawyer

Jackson Montgomery Warring never lets opposing counsel see him sweat. Juggling a dozen billionaire clients on a daily basis, he’s always perfectly prepared, calm, cool and collected. Until he meets his best friend’s fiancée, the luscious Mistress L.

Now he wants a Mistress for himself. Badly. Except the one who’s caught his eye is his complete opposite—a Goth-booted, tatted and pierced priestess of the local tattoo scene.

The Inker

For over a year, Diana Temple has been too busy at her up-and-coming tattoo shop to throw one of her legendary BDSM parties. But for Jackson, she’ll make the time, especially since the slick, fancy lawyer admits he likes to watch.

The Secret

If she thought her edgy style might turn him off, she’s happy to discover she’s wrong. But when she learns his secret addiction, she might refuse to teach him a thing or two about submission.

Or maybe she’ll just punish him harder…

Warning: A rich, successful attorney in a downward spiral, a tattoo artist who happens to be a Mistress, a secret addiction and a peek at exhibitionism/voyeurism.

One of the best books I read in 2014 was THE BILLIONAIRE SUBMISSIVE, the first book in a new series from Joely Sue Burkhart, who continues to be one of my favorite erotic romance writers. So of course I was excited about this second book, THE BILLIONAIRE’S INK MISTRESS, and I’m happy to report that it was nearly as good a read as the previous one.

Jackson Warring is an overworked overachieving lawyer who presents a perfect facade to the world even as his actual life is falling apart. Yet he has no idea what he can do to stop his downward spiral…not until one fateful day when he has to visit his best friend Donovan Morgan on business and discovers the new relationship that has made that man happier than he’s ever seen. That’s when Jackson realizes exactly what he needs, and begs Donovan’s Mistress L for help. Lilly’s friend Diana seems like the perfect match for Jackson even though they come from completely different worlds. But as Diana and Jackson begin to learn each other’s secrets, their happy ending is far from certain, and anything less might be too much to bear.

The best part of THE BILLIONAIRE’S INK MISTRESS was how it avoided the more obvious ways the plot could play out for something less expected, yet more realistic. Of course there were class-based conflicts between Diana’s world and Jackson’s, and the way they each rose to every occasion proved that their love wasn’t based solely on their powerful sexual attraction. Even after the reasons why Jackson had pushed himself to his physical and emotional limit before meeting Diana seemed to be resolved, there had to be one last big threat which only Jackson could resolve himself, leaving Diana to wait and hope he would find his way back to her for good. But none of it the way I might have expected, and that’s what made this great book even better for me. With the Billionaires in Bondage books, Joely Sue Burkhart continues to subvert popular romance tropes and that’s what makes this a must-read series for me.

four-half-stars

TheEnticementbyTaraSueMe

Review: The Enticement by Tara Sue Me

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review:  The Enticement by Tara Sue MeThe Enticement by Tara Sue Me
Series: Submissive #4
Published by Penguin on April 7th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Fiction, General, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-stars
New York Times bestselling author Tara Sue Me returns to the story of Abby and Nathaniel to explore the passion after the ‘Happily-Ever-After’…Limits were made to be pushed.Abby West has everything she wanted: a family, a skyrocketing new career, and a sexy, Dominant husband who fulfills her every need. Only, as her life outside the bedroom becomes hectic, her Master’s sexual requirements inside become more extreme. Abby doesn’t understand Nathaniel’s increased need for control, but she can’t deny the delicious way her body reacts to his tantalizing demands…Between Abby’s reluctance and Nathaniel’s unyielding commands, the delicate balance of power between the Dominant and his submissive threatens to shift. And as the underlying tension and desire between them heats up, so does the struggle to keep everything they value from falling apart …

One of the reasons I’ve loved Tara Sue Me’s Submissive series is the way she continues to show its romantic couple – Nathaniel and Abby – grow in their love for each other while they deal with everything married life continues to throw at them. It’s not often we get to see a D/s erotic romance couple in their lives together after the HEA, but THE ENTICEMENT, the latest book in this series, is just as fascinating and enjoyable as its predecessors.

Now that Abby and Nathaniel have been married for a while, it seems almost inevitable that they might fall into a bit of a rut in their interactions, and their D/s relationship is no exception. When a new career opportunity for Abby comes up just as Nathaniel is looking to hand off day-to-day control of his charitable foundation, the combined stress has the potential to either strengthen their D/s commitment or open a split in what each believes the other wants both in and out of the bedroom.

What I loved most about THE ENTICEMENT was how neither Nathaniel nor Abby ever once took each other’s happiness for granted even with all the big changes they had to navigate in this story. It was great to see Nathaniel truly happy for Abby’s success and not feel threatened by how it might affect his privacy. And even though Abby had continuing doubts about the new woman trying to come between her and Nathaniel, Abby still trusted in Nathaniel’s love. Best of all, when their D/s relationship began to reflect the major upheaval, they both eventually realized that they needed to communicate what they were feeling and thinking, making the changes deliberate instead of just a knee-jerk reaction to everything going on. Neither one of them is perfect, and they make mistakes along the way, just like anyone else would. But both Nathaniel and Abby know they love each other, and that is what keeps them from losing touch with what’s really important. It’s as realistic a portrayal as one can be for a contemporary billionaire Dom and his submissive wife, and I can’t wait to see what happens in Nathaniel and Abby’s lives next.

four-stars

Review: Beauty’s Kingdom by Anne Rice, writing as A.N. Roquelaure

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review: Beauty’s Kingdom by Anne Rice, writing as A.N. RoquelaureBeauty's Kingdom by A. N. RoquelaureAnne Rice
Published by VIKING on April 21st 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Fantasy, Fiction, Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Goodreads
three-stars
The erotic Sleeping Beauty trilogy now continues with a fourth novel by master storyteller and bestselling author of Prince Lestat, Anne Rice, writing as A. N. Roquelaure   Mega-bestselling author Annie Rice returns to where she left off in Beauty’s Release with the disappearance of Queen Eleanor in Bellavalten. Now, twenty years after they were forced to leave the kingdom to return to their homeland, Beauty and her husband Laurent agree to travel back as its king and queen, to uphold the ways of complete sensual surrender, with a twist: they now insist on voluntary servitude in Bellavalten.   Countless eager princes, princesses, lords, ladies, and common folk journey to Beauty’s new kingdom where she and her husband awaken their domain, ushering in a new era of desire, longing, and sexual ecstasy. Provocative and stirring, Rice’s imaginative retelling of the Sleeping Beauty myth will be hailed by her longtime fans and new readers of erotica just discovering the novels. This book is intended for mature audiences.

BEAUTY’S KINGDOM is the surprise addition to the infamous Sleeping Beauty trilogy written by Anne Rice under a pseudonym over thirty years ago. In the history of erotic literature, the Beauty books hold a special place of honor and with good cause. From THE CLAIMING OF SLEEPING BEAUTY, through BEAUTY’S PUNISHMENT, and ending with BEAUTY’S RELEASE, we see the innocent sheltered heroine both figuratively and literally awakened to a whole new sensual world neither she nor we thought existed. Each book goes deeper in and further out so that by the time Princess Beauty finds her Happy Ever After with the powerful Prince Laurent, the reader can’t help but be as changed by the experience as its titular character.

But now it’s twenty years later in Beauty’s world, and the domain where she discovered both her true nature and her true love is in danger of collapse. The task ahead is great, and it will take the help of friends both old and new to secure their beloved land’s future. All this and more is the story of how Queen Eleanor’s kingdom is transformed into Beauty’s kingdom.

I wish I could say that I enjoyed reading BEAUTY’S KINGDOM even half as much as I’ve loved the original trilogy. But it became clear to me early on that this book was trying to hook new readers unfamiliar with the previous books while still servicing existing fans by bringing back nearly every named character from the original kingdom. The result is a story that falls down in the two areas where the original books excelled, namely exposition and pacing. It wasn’t wonderful and it wasn’t terrible. It was just…there.

In the original trilogy, the story is focused on Beauty herself, and to some extent, the people with whom she comes in contact on her voyage to self-discovery and love. We are given just enough information about where Beauty is and why it matters, leaving the rest for our own imaginations to run wild. But in BEAUTY’S KINGDOM, everything is laid out for the reader in such meticulous detail that it soon becomes a struggle just to absorb everything without losing track of wherever the plot is supposed to be going.

Thanks to all the catching up on what happened since the last book and all the details involved in Beauty and Laurent deciding to accept the throne, it takes seven long chapters – nearly a third of the book – before we actually get to Beauty’s kingdom. Before then, it’s pages and pages of “and then this happened” with name checks for all the original characters in the kingdom, even those who’d just been mentioned briefly in the earlier books, and for me it was easily the most deadly dull part of the whole book. By the time we finally arrive nine months and a hundred pages later, all I could picture was that scene in Monty Python And The Holy Grail where everyone is yelling “Get on with it!”

The most disappointing thing for me about BEAUTY’S KINGDOM was how little we get of Beauty or Laurent’s points of view once they are established as the new rulers. Most of the book is about how Lady Eva kept the kingdom traditions going in the absence of its previous rulers and then how each of Beauty and Laurent’s fellow pleasure slaves from twenty years ago return to take control over various areas of activity in support of the new regime. There are a few chapters here and there featuring “volunteers” in the new and improved pleasure slave experience, and those were the stories that kept me reading when I was tempted to give up. But for someone whose name is in the title of the book, Beauty herself gets precious little time in BEAUTY’S KINGDOM, and the book suffers in her absence.

Yet all could have been forgiven if the ending of BEAUTY’S KINGDOM was worth the work to get there. The other characters constantly refer to some terrible secret involving Lexius, the mysterious Sultan’s servant who’d been mastered by Laurent back in the third book, but when both he and it are subsequently revealed, I didn’t know whether to be amused or appalled. Meanwhile in the few glimpses we get of Beauty herself, we can see she’s still not fully content with her role in the new kingdom despite all the public credit given to her. Up until the very last scene, I was holding out hope that the parallels drawn between her and the pitiable Sir Stephen were hinting at an updated happy ending for her. But like so much of what preceded it, what is intended as Beauty’s ultimate triumph fell flat for me. By then, I was happier to be done with the story than with what I got at the end.

In conclusion, for me BEAUTY’S KINGDOM was as overstuffed as a Thanksgiving turkey, and just as lifeless. I’m not sorry i read BEAUTY’S KINGDOM. I’m only sorry it wasn’t better.

View all my reviews

three-stars

Review: The Duke of Andelot by Delilah Marvelle

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review:  The Duke of Andelot by Delilah MarvelleThe Duke of Andelot on April 10 2015
Pages: 314
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-half-stars
For fans of The Scarlet Pimpernel and Tom Jones comes a twisted, sexy tale that takes the French Revolution to smoldering new heights.

Long before becoming the flamboyant courtesan known to men as Madame de Maitenon, Thérèse Angelique Bouchard, dreamed of becoming an actress capable of commanding not only the stage but all of Paris. Until she meets an extraordinary aristocratic gentleman who sweeps her into his arms and the danger of his life, while offering her the sort of wealth she never imagined. What starts off as a seductive alliance, ends in her giving him the one thing she, as a mere bourgeoisie, cannot afford to give: her love.

After the murder of his older brothers, Gérard Antoine Tolbert, becomes the last heir to the powerful dukedom of Andelot, leaving him to fight for not only his life, but the allegiance he holds for the crown. During the final rise of the French Revolution that whispers of the violent change about to shake the entire country, Gérard meets an aspiring actress who entices him into wanting more out of not only himself but life. In trying to protect her from their overly passionate alliance and those that want him dead, he must decide what matters most: his life or his heart.

WARNING: This book contains strong language and sexual content that may cause respectable people to swoon.

THE DUKE OF ANDELOT is the triumphant conclusion to Delilah Marvelle’s excellent School of Gallantry series, but like the other books before it, it can easily be read as a standalone, even if you don’t know who everyone is in the lovely epilogue. I myself came into this series with book 4, NIGHT OF PLEASURE, and since then have enjoyed going back and discovering the stories running concurrently with all the others.

As the final book of the series, THE DUKE OF ANDELOT is somewhat different from the rest in that the bulk of its story takes place decades earlier. In it we learn how the notorious Madame de Maintenon found her own true love, only to lose him, perhaps forever, to the chaos of the French Revolution. Before she was the toast of Paris and London, she was merely Thérèse, the butcher’s daughter, tramping through the countryside on her way to her beloved cousin Remy and his small Paris theater. When a threatening highwayman turns out to be Gérard, a highly placed aristocrat on his way to attempt an improbable rescue of his beloved godfather, Thérèse is attracted to him, but skeptical of his motives. As their journey continues, their love for each other grows as quickly as the danger they both face while the Revolution speeds toward its predestined conclusion.

I’ll admit that when I first started reading, I was disappointed to begin in the past, with only my knowledge that this was Madame de Maintenon’s story to keep me from immediately losing interest. But once Thérèse and Gérard find themselves completely in love with each other, I was thoroughly hooked. And by the time they each must make the decisions they need to stay alive, I was awash in tears which lasted all the way to the short but satisfying epilogue which tied up the whole series in joy. Even the small repetitive parts (for those familiar with the previous books) couldn’t keep me from wallowing with glee in the Happy Ever After for the woman who had brought so many to others before her and the one man worthy of her love. THE DUKE OF ANDELOT is a satisfying historical romance for anyone who loves a happy ending that’s merely delayed, not denied.

View all my reviews

four-half-stars

Review: Say My Name by J. Kenner

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review:  Say My Name by J. KennerSay My Name by J. Kenner
Published by Random House Publishing Group on April 7th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica, Fiction, General, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-stars
New York Times bestselling author J. Kenner kicks off a smoking hot, emotionally compelling new erotic trilogy that returns to the world of her beloved Stark novels: Release Me, Claim Me, and Complete Me. Say My Name features Jackson Steele, a strong-willed man who goes after what he wants, and Sylvia Brooks, a disciplined woman who's hard to get--and exactly who Jackson needs.   I never let anyone get too close--but he's the only man who's ever made me feel alive.   Meeting Jackson Steele was a shock to my senses. Confident and commanding, he could take charge of any room . . . or any woman. And Jackson wanted me. The mere sight of him took my breath away, and his touch made me break all my rules.     Our bond was immediate, our passion untamed. I wanted to surrender completely to his kiss, but I couldn't risk his knowing the truth about my past. Yet Jackson carried secrets too, and in our desire we found our escape, pushing our boundaries as far as they could go.   Learning to trust is never easy. In my mind, I knew I should run. But in my heart, I never felt a fire this strong--and it could either save me or scorch me forever.   Say My Name is an erotic romance intended for mature audiences. From the Trade Paperback edition.

In SAY MY NAME, J. Kenner returns to the world she established in her original Damien Stark erotic romance trilogy, only this time the heroine is Stark’s most trusted employee and her hero is the one man she’s loved enough to push away for his own good. When the only way Sylvia Brooks can save her first solo Stark International project is by begging Jackson Steele for help, that rescue could cost her own sanity. But as the two star-crossed lovers slowly learn to love and trust again, they soon find what’s at stake might be their own lives.

Although I quite enjoyed the original Stark trilogy, I’ll admit this new book started a bit slowly for me. I’ve never been a big fan of trying to guess what the initial relationship was between the hero and heroine, or what broke them apart so brutally that she fears his harsh reaction as he initially tries to reject her. So the story was a bit frustrating for me until the flashbacks were over and we were completely in the present. But from that point on, I was completely enthralled, even already knowing how Kenner structures these trilogies so that the first two books end on a tentative Happy For Now, saving the Happy Ever After for the final story.

Both Jackson and Sylvia have endured terrible childhoods which are still influencing their present lives more than even they could have predicted. They can’t stay apart any longer and yet everything seems to be conspiring to split them up anyway. And hovering over it all is the outsized influence of Damien Stark himself, to the point that Sylvia may soon have to choose between the man she loves and the man who has earned her complete loyalty. It’s a heady mix of love and intrigue, and Kenner continues to deliver a knockout experience that made me long for the next book even as I was more than satisfied with this story’s ending. To say more would give too much away, and I encourage everyone who loved the original Stark trilogy to read SAY MY NAME to find out what’s there for themselves.

View all my reviews

four-stars

Review: The Companion Contract by Solace Ames

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Review:  The Companion Contract by Solace AmesThe Companion Contract by Solace Ames
Published by Carina Press on February 9th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica, Fiction, General, Multicultural & Interracial, Romance
Pages: 169
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-stars
Control. Submission. Power.Amy Mendoza knew she'd never have a Cinderella story. She walked away from the ashes of her childhood on her own, and signed her first porn contract the day she turned eighteen. The money's been good, but it's time to walk away again before the life drags her down. When a mysterious stranger offers her an unusual contract—sexual companion to a recently relapsed rock star—she accepts.Amy quickly and gratefully falls into an easy rhythm of control and submission—but it's not her client who keeps her up at night. Emanuel, lead guitarist and the man who hired her, occupies her thoughts—and soon, her bed. Their connection is intense, and although Amy knows sleeping with Emanuel isn't what she's there for—isn't what she's being paid for—what's between them is too strong to ignore. But there's more to Emanuel than Amy knows, and submitting to him might come at too high a price…89,000 words

This review originally appeared at Romancing Rakes for the Love of Romance.

THE COMPANION CONTRACT is the latest entry in Solace Ames’s excellent LA Doms series, and although it ended up being a good read for me, it wasn’t nearly as good of a romance as her previous stories.

In this story, we meet Amy Mendoza, who lost her entire family to deportation at the age of thirteen, forcing her into life choices that no child should ever have to make. Now eight years later, the world knows her only as the porn star Serena Sakamoto, and she’s made the most of what life has dealt her in order to stay alive and send money back to her family in the Philippines. But when Amy’s good friend Chiho needs rescuing from a Hollywood party gone wrong, the man who helps them out might end up being the one person Amy can count on to be there for her when nobody else ever has.

Emanuel de la Isla experienced the best and worst of life as he moved from a violent upbringing in South America to incredible success as part of the seminal rock band Avert. When he witnesses Amy’s strength in handling pressure under fire, he realizes she’s the perfect person to keep track of Avert’s problem lead singer as the band attempts a long awaited reunion album and tour. As Amy becomes indispensable to the success of the band’s future, it becomes all too obvious that she’s just as crucial to Emanuel’s happiness as he is to hers. But when the band’s planned future derails yet again, it remains to be seen if Amy and Emanuel’s love can survive outside the protected bubble they’d created together.

As with the other books I’ve read by Solace Ames, I was struck by the richness and elegance of how she structures her stories and develops her characters. No matter how unlike the events and people she writes about are with respect to my own life, I am always able to fully relate on an emotional level to what her characters are feeling and experiencing. In THE COMPANION CONTRACT, our heroine is a porn star who deliberately chose this career on her 18th birthday because she knew it was her best option to make enough money to support herself and her distant family. She falls in love with an albino Afro-Colombian who is the lead guitarist of the band she loved best as a teenager, and becomes the close friend of both the band’s lead singer, who has ongoing problems with drug addiction, and the trans woman he loves but cannot have. All of these characters are fleshed out beautifully and their interactions with the hero and heroine are both organic and essential. By the end of the story, each character is in a better place than they started, and optimistic that they will continue to be happy.

Yet, as a romance first and foremost, THE COMPANION CONTRACT missed the mark somewhat for me. Although I believed in Amy and Emanuel’s love, it was often pushed aside in favor of the various dramas associated with Miles, Avert’s unreliable lead singer, and Xiomara, the trans woman important to both him and Emanuel even as she was still learning how to live as her true self. And with the story told entirely from Amy’s first person POV, it was difficult for me to understand what motivated Emanuel beyond caretaking of his loved ones and a sexual pull toward Amy that she shared in return. That also affected my reaction when Emanuel and Amy were briefly separated, as she worried he wouldn’t return even though he swore he would, and I wondered why she didn’t believe him when I’d never seen any reason why he would lie.

Still, THE COMPANION CONTRACT is a lovely read overall and if you’re good with the romance being equal to other parts of the story, then you shouldn’t have any problems. Either way, I’m still a fan of Solace Ames and look forward to what she’ll be writing next.

Favorite Quote:

I wasn’t a beggar or a queen. I had room in my heart to love everyone who stayed behind.
I was only myself.
And that was enough.

View all my reviews

four-stars